Students get chance to study medicine
This week 10 St Matthew Academy students have been taking part in a unique programme to encourage young people in inner London to take up medicine. Students in years 7 and 8 have been learning CPR techniques, taking each other’s blood pressure, studying the organs of rats and mice and finding out how to suture wounds during the start of a programme called School of Docs – growing the next generation of Lewisham doctors.
Other activities during the intense week-long introduction to medicine included a special tour of Lewisham hospital, visits to local GP practices, a day spent learning medical techniques with real medical students on King’s College’s Extended Medical Degree course and a tour of London’s Wellcome Collection and Hunterian Museum, two famous medical museums.
The aim of the programme is to encourage young people from ordinary backgrounds to consider medicine as a career and develop ‘Lewisham doctors for Lewisham patients’. It was conceived by Dr Danny Ruta, Lewisham’s director of public health who worked with St Matthew Academy’s head of science Ben Smith to get it up and running.
‘As far as I can tell, this is the first time anywhere in the world that anyone has tried to get children as young as this thinking about a medical career,’ says Dr Ruta. ‘We hope that by getting to them this young we will be able to support them over the next few years to make the right choices and do the hard work necessary to get in to medical school and make it as a doctor.’
Over the week students have also had the chance to debate ethical medical questions with leading consultants from Lewisham Hospital, and to study certain areas of medicine in more depth. ‘It’s been amazing watching these young people develop over the week,’ says Ben Smith. ‘Many of them started the week quite unsure of what being a doctor might entail – by the end of the programme they all felt confident to ask questions about thorny ethics and medical processes, and not afraid to use complex medical terminology. All of them now see medicine as a path they could take in the future. The job of the programme now is to continue to encourage and mentor them over the next five to eight years to give them the best opportunity of getting into medical school and to succeed when they get there.’
‘I’ve really loved the whole week, especially going round the secret parts of Lewisham Hospital,’ says Orlane Doumbe from year 8 at St Matthew Academy. ‘We saw all sorts of things that normally only people who work in the hospital see. It’s made me understand much more about what doctors do. And because I’ve been able to talk to lots of doctors and medical students, I’ve realized that I could be one too, if I work really really hard.’
Dr Joe Lipton, a senior house officer at Lewisham Hospital, who took the children on their tour of the hospital, said, ‘It’s a fantastic programme – I certainly found I had no idea about medicine when I went to school, and I went to school in this area. I think if you don't have any medics in your family, then it's not something that immediately springs to mind as a career choice, particularly as some of these guys probably haven't met many doctors in their lives.’